Saturday, January 23, 2016

Lessons Learned in Ten Years of Blogging

I just opened up my blog page and read the quotes at the top of my sidebar, about spiritual growth occurring at the pace of a hen when you are a married person (and a mother)...and the second one about learning at the pace of walking, at the speed of life.

What have I learned in the ten years I've been keeping this blog? It was my tenth blog-i-versary on New Year's Eve!

I should probably go back and re-publish some of my original posts on why I chose the title and those quotes. But ten years ago, I was a homeschooling mom of six, age 15 and under. The days were very full of the mundane--changing diapers, nursing, explaining math problems, reading aloud, doing laundry, and every time I turned around someone was hungry...again! There was very little time for anything that seemed of eternal significance--unless I embraced it ALL as having eternal value. This blog helped me do that, recording the memories with a thankful, joyful heart, and tracing God's hand as He provided and directed along the way. 

As more of our kids entered their teenage years and when we moved away from an established network of Christian families and friends, there were years where a lot happened that was too painful to share...but oh, how God was working through those dark days.

We've come through the tunnel and out into the light again, it seems. Not that there aren't shadows that loom from time to time, but here's what I've learned, following God at a hen's pace, in the last ten years:

Each day is a gift. Even if it's another day filled with worry and pain, it's another day to bring it all to the Lord, and to take small steps in the right direction in the tasks He's given me, and in the lives of those I influence.

As I've petitioned the Lord for situations that were completely out of my control, He's given me things I CAN do. He's reminded me to appreciate His goodness. He's told me not to strive, to worry, to be anxious--and to trust Him. He's given me responsibilities that give me joy and distract from the pain. He's taught me that joy is not about circumstances, it's a choice--and it's usually found in the small things.

The Scriptures say that he who is faithful with little will be entrusted with great things. By God's grace, I've been able to make small daily choices--one step at a time--that have brought me on a journey to to better places than I could have imagined ten years ago! I won't say it was all forward progress--like the hen, I'd backtrack and circle around, with the same besetting issues repeatedly tripping me up--but the cumulative direction, though at a hen's pace, was God-ward.

As a writer, I've learned that writing takes time. Choosing words is not something I do quickly, and I honestly can't say that I feel called to write--at least right now--in the same way that I feel called to do other things. I've always thought that I'd write a book someday, and maybe I still will...but it's not something I'm supposed to do now. But I would like to figure out a way to spend just a few minutes a day blogging. It would be great if I could get a few thoughts and memories recorded "at the pace of a hen," rather than in great waterfalls of words, few and far between.

Maybe that lesson will be learned in my next decade of blogging!


Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Books Read in 2015

I'm a bit late for my usual end-of-year post reviewing the books I read in the past year! I won't review them all, especially because so many were by the same authors. As usual, about half were audiobooks, and I read precious few non-fiction books again, I see. My excuse this year is that I read so many nonfiction articles online!

This year I did not keep track of the movies I watched, so no post on that. Sorry, folks.

Audiobooks

The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Thirteen for Dinner
The Big Four
Death in the Clouds
Endless Night
Dumb Witness
The Secret Adversary
After the Funeral
Dead Man's Mirror
(Agatha Christie, read by Hugh Fraser)

Agatha Christie's novels are my go-to audiobooks. My library has 3 shelves of them, and I still haven't listened to them all! I love the British reader who reads most of them. Her plots are ingenious and satisfying; her characters are intriguing and so well-personified. You'd think she'd start to repeat characters, but Dame Christie really was an amazing writer.

Love Among the Chickens (P.G. Wodehouse) 

Nothing beats Jeeves and Wooster, but this novelette was really enjoyable and hilarious.

The Miracle at Speedy Motors
The Double Comfort Safari Club (Alexander McCall Smith)

More from the gently humorous series The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency, set in Botswana.

Pontoon:  A Novel of Lake Woebegon (Garrison Keillor)
This novel surprised me with a sharper, darker and cruder edge than Keillor's usual folksy, feel-good stories of life in a fictional Minnesota small town. This one is NOT family fare.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling, read by Jim Dale)

That's right, all but the last one! It will fall into 2016. 

I have to say that I have enjoyed these on audiobook WAY more than reading them to myself--and I loved reading them as they came out! Maybe it's because I'm finally getting the whole story at once, instead of reading them with months and years in between, but I think it's also because Jim Dale is an incredible reader. He has a different voice for each of the hundreds of characters he eloquently portrays in these award-winning performances.

Non-Audiobooks

The Friendly Shakespeare:  A Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Best of the Bard (Norrie Epstein)

I've been teaching Shakespeare to teens, I assistant-directed a summer Shakespeare production and I ended up performing in it as well; I had to brush up on my knowledge! This resource was a great refresher on everything I learned in my college Shakespeare class. It was also most amusing and entertaining. I highly recommend! My only complaint is she needs to update her review of Shakespearean films; so many good ones were made after she published this book in 1994.

The Trip to Jerusalem
The Silent Woman
The Merry Devils
The Mad Courtesan
The Roaring Boy
The Laughing Hangman
The Wanton Angel
The Bawdy Basket
The Vagabond Clown
The Counterfeit Crank
The Malevolent Comedy (Edward Marston)

These mysteries are set in the days of Elizabethan theater, in the midst of a troupe very much like the one William Shakespeare wrote for. The detective, Nicholas Bracewell, is the bookholder--something like a stage manager/director, who was the only person to have a complete copy of "the book" or script. We also meet the leading man, the clown, the talented young boy who plays the leading lady's parts, and many other characters secondarily related to the troupe. These mysteries were fun to read and sketch a historically accurate picture. Pre-read before giving to your Shakespeare student though--although there is nothing really gratuitous, these Elizabethans are a lusty group.

The Shakespeare Stealer (Gary Blackwood)

This novel is safe for any age student, and it also gives a good picture of life in an Elizabethan acting troupe. 

A Challenge for the Actor (Uta Hagen)
The Power of the Actor (Ivana Chubbuck)

An acquaintance who is an acting coach recommended these two books on her website, so I read them, since I teach acting to kids. These were definitely geared to adult thinking and did not seem easily applicable to what I do, but I was glad to learn from them.

This Thing of Ours: How Faith Saved My Mafia Marriage (Cammy Franzese)

I was picking out books at the library that might be helpful for B16 with a report he was writing on the Chicago mob, when this title caught my eye. It was fascinating! What an encouragement to see what a huge difference this wife's faith made in a marriage tested by imprisonment and other extreme circumstances. Her mother's faith was a testimony as well.

Prayer (O. Hallesby)

What a find among Father Rooster's many worthwhile books! The cover claimed it was a classic, though I'd never heard of it, but now I believe it. This gentle Norwegian pastor explains so simply how to pray--continually, and without striving. Here's a quote:

To pray is to open the door unto Jesus and admit Him into your distress. Your helplessness is the very thing which opens wide the door unto Him and gives Him access to all your needs.

Here are more. Who knew?

Hood
Scarlet
Tuck (Stephen Lawhead)

These are re-imaginings of the Robin Hood legends, set in Wales. We've owned these forever, but I think Father Rooster and I OD'd on Stephen Lawhead back in the day, with his wonderful 6-volume Pendragon series and then some less memorable books after that. His books are set in the post-pagan times of the druids as they were converted to Christianity, so Lawhead's historic world includes beautiful Celtic Christian prayers, songs, mysticism and the occasional miracle. 

Now, if you'd like to read more book lists and reviews, check out the blog Semicolon and her round-up of year-end book posts!



Saturday, December 19, 2015

And That Was My Fall

It's been awhile, hasn't it? I've been pondering whether to keep my little blog going!

One would think that with no kids being homeschooled this fall, I would have had unprecedented amounts of time on my hand, but one would be wrong. Instead, I was unprecedentedly busy, riding a steep learning curve, doing something I had never done before--directing 59 kids in a musical! I had all kinds of new responsibilities to figure out, and in addition, before I was asked to direct, I had already agreed to teach two classes as well (Shakespeare and Dramatic Voice & Diction). Everything--classes, rehearsals, performances--was in Milwaukee, too, an hour away from home. So I was really putting in the hours, 3 days a week commuting and putting in time with the kids, plus prep time at home!

And loving every minute, I might add. 

I might also add that last year, as I kept sensing the Lord nudging me to wrap up my homeschooling days, I heard him say, several times, that He had other things for me to do. At the time, I hoped that one of those things might be directing, but I suspected it was probably my Bible study, relationships with neighbors, and service at Light of Christ, including hosting and co-leading the youth group. I was stunned to be offered the head director job, when I wasn't sure I would even get the chance to be an assistant director again. 

As I've been busy with all these things this fall, but especially with directing, I had to ask the Lord if it really was okay with him that I was spending so much time on a musical theater production. Were there other things He wanted me to do, that I was neglecting? His answer was clear: "I am the one who opened the doors for you! Yes, I want you to walk through them." 

So it was a joyful fall for me. So much to learn, and what fun to learn it! I will write a post about our production (probably in January!), but it's been non-stop since it ended. After our last performance and Strike Party, we hosted Thanksgiving 4 days later...then we had the week of multiple school choir concerts, plus auditions for Fiddler on the Roof (B16, B10 and Chicklet are all in it, but I'm not involved, and it's here in Kenosha, not Milwaukee)... then my parents visited us, to attend Ye Olde Christmasse Feaste with the Madrigal Singers, the elite singing group that B16 is part of...before that, I shopped for them, and we decorated for Christmas...and now I am Christmas shopping, menu planning, and grocery shopping right up till Christmas Eve, I'm afraid!

This weekend, I take my Shakespeare class to Milwaukee to see All's Well That Ends Well...we have a youth group Christmas party and caroling...we are rehearsing for a short Christmas pageant that will be on Christmas Eve...and on Tuesday, we have a funeral, our first ever at Light of Christ. A sad loss to cancer, but an indomitable spirit, eager to be with Jesus, whose only earthly concern was for others who do not yet know Him. She left a list of names for Father Rooster and others from our church to follow up with, and she messaged them all that her dying wish was for them to attend our Christmas Eve service, so it will be interesting to see how God uses that!

But I thought I would take twenty minutes and see what I could write here! I spent twice that much time, but I think that may become one of my New Year's disciplines--to try to write short posts, more frequently. We'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Happy Birthday, Chicklet13!

I'm late to tell the world that this beautiful girl has become a teenager!


It's hard to believe. She still seems so young, innocent and childlike, while at the same time deepening in a maturity that is beyond her years. Despite her advanced age, she still relates so well to all the younger girls at our church and to her younger brother, and she doesn't seem in a rush to grow up and get too interested in boys, fashion and makeup. 

She enjoys dressing up, though, as she is in this picture--her big sister did her hair and makeup! The occasion was a back-to-school dance that our church youth group sponsored. She was the only middle-schooler there, but since the youth group meets at our house, I'm one of the leaders, and we're short on girls, she gets to be part of it. PK's should get a few perks in life! (Pastor's Kid, for the uninitiated.)

Here's another pic from the dance--with one of her best friends!


Love the exuberance and joy captured here! Chicklet is normally a sweet, level-headed, pretty quiet girl. It's fun to see her burst out at the seams once in a while. 

Her older sister has always been a big personality, and she was SO excited to finally get a little sister when she was 10 years old. She was present at Chicklet's birth, 13 years ago! It's fun to see their relationship changing and getting closer as Chicklet gets older.

Speaking of 10-year-olds, here is Chicklet on the first day of school with Bantam10, her best bud and constant companion. --By circumstance rather than by choice, most of the time, but it's delightful to see the two of them getting along really well, most of the time.


Her first few days at middle school have gone really well. She really, really likes all her teachers--yay!-- and she's found a couple kindred spirits in her classes and at lunch, who sound like sweet, nerdy friends for our girl. Perfect! No looking back longingly at her homeschooling days for either of us--we are both enjoying this new stage. B10 is enjoying being an experienced 5th grader, with the same teacher as last year. He loved her, she loved him, I loved her approach--so all's well there!

One last photo, with B20:


It scares me how old she looks here!

Most wonderful of all, about our Chicklet, is her heart for God. She knows she has lots to learn, but she listens for God's voice, she follows the Holy Spirit's leadings, she leans on God's strength when she is tempted, and she hungers for more of the Lord's presence. You know God is working in a heart like that!

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of 12 years with this sweet daughter. 



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fifty Things to Love About My 50-Year-Old Man

If I'd been smarter, I'd have seen this day coming and would have started thinking about this post before 10 a.m. on his actual birthday. But since I've been living this summer by the seat of my pants, I will now proceed to dash off 50 things about my one-and-only...before I have to leave for my yoga class! (That I cannot miss even though it's his birthday because it's been too long since my 50-year-old body has been there and I FEEL IT. Such a typical scenario. You can only do how much you can do.)

1. I am blessed beyond measure that my husband deeply loves me.

2. And God. I'm sure it's because of his love for God and God's love for him that he can find the grace to hang in there with me-at-my-worst.

3. Which he does, all the time.

4. He also seems to really like me, most of the time.

5. He likes to listen to me talk, of all things.

6. He even mostly remembers things I tell him.

7. He gives me good advice on a regular basis.

8. And loves me even when I don't take it.

9. But mostly we make a good team.

10. Even though we tend to notice the things we don't agree on, we are on the same page on so many things that it's easy to take them for granted.

11. Faith, for example. Years ago, I thought about marrying a guy who had plans for his life; God was welcome to join him. Instead, I married the guy who was committed to following wherever God led.

12. As fellow adventurers in following God, we've had six children.

13. We've followed God's leading to move to Wisconsin and help plant a church.

14. We've lived by faith on many decisions, large and small.

15. Including buying the house we live in presently, which made no sense except through the lens of faith.

16. He's been the rock when my faith wavered.

17. He's the stable one when I'm tired, weak and emotional.

18. He lets us reverse roles sometimes too.

19. He is incredibly patient.

20. He is an amazing pastor.

21. To our kids as well as to those in our small congregation.

22. He is gifted in wisdom and knowledge.

23. He is gifted in prayer.

24. He is gifted in healing.

25. He is a great speaker and storyteller.

26. Even if I have to bite my tongue sometimes to keep from correcting the inaccurate details!

27. He has a compassionate heart.

28. He oozes wisdom and compassion when he counsels others.

29. People trust this guy, and they are right to do so.

30. He is an excellent leader.

31. He always knows how to speak diplomatically in tense situations.

32. In those situations, I am always amazed at his vocabulary and word choice, which I would never in a million years be able to come up with.

33. He's always reading something interesting.

34. He always sends me interesting articles.

35. He knows what I'd be interested in.

36. And he shares things that he's interested in, just to keep me up-to-date with his latest mental projects.

37. He likes having people over, informally, and together we've developed a hospitality that God uses.

38. Somehow it feeds us instead of draining us, which I'm sure is the Lord's doing, but I have to credit my husband with launching us down that path.

39. He also led us down the Anglican path, which was way outside my comfort zone, but which I love now!

40. I love that he's an ordained Anglican priest.

41. He has such a joyful and honest way of leading a service.

42. I love that our boys all have gone through a phase where they thought they would like to become a priest too, someday. (B10 is still in it. He also would like to be bald, just like his daddy.)

43. I think he looks incredibly handsome in all his vestments.

44. And in jeans and button-down shirts, which always remind me of the college boy he was when we met.

45. That college boy used to sing to me, snatches from musicals, especially "Pretty Women."

46. I still love hearing his tenor voice.

47. I love that our kids inherited his singing abilities.

48. Did I mention that he's much, much smarter than I am?

49. And humble, too?

50. Best of all, he's loved me for 29 years!

Happy 50th, Honey! You are such a blessing to me, our family and our church, for all the reasons I've listed and here and so many more!!! May God bless you as you bless so many others!

Monday, July 27, 2015

July Update

Poor, neglected blog.

Where do I begin to try to catch it up?

I think we'll go with bullet points! (A vain attempt, probably, at brevity.)

--Big news:  My father-in-law bought a house near us!! He hasn't put his old house--a townhome in IL--on the market yet, but he closed on the new house and he's been moving in stages. I've made several trips there to help him pack--but it's been hard to get much time there when you have to factor in 3 hours of roundtrip travel time. (This is why we needed him closer!!) Movers moved his heaviest furniture and books already, but we need to get his remaining belongings packed up and ready for a final rental truck--hopefully later this week!

--It's been especially hard because our schedule has been more full than it usually is in the summer. I started a ladies' Bible study on Friday mornings, which has been good! We've had great discussions about really tough questions, and I was especially encouraged by a woman who randomly asked if she could join us, although she knew none of us and had just met the woman who told her about it. She and her husband came to church the next Sunday, and already signed up for our upcoming new member's class! It seemed to confirm that it really was the Lord who put it into my heart to have the Bible study, even though not everyone I hoped would come has been able to attend, and even though I hesitated to make a regular commitment to it, especially in the summer.

--God also nudged me to start a Thursday Bible study for the kids in our church ages 10-12 (Chicklet and B10's age group). We've had a blast doing "sword drills" (a race to locate verses in our Bibles) and studying passages about prayer, encouraging the kids that their prayers make a difference and wrestling with the question of why we should pray if God already knows what He's going to do! Afterwards, moms and siblings join us and we've visited a museum, ridden the trolley and eaten at "Trolley Dogs," and been to the beach. Again, although it's been a commitment, I've felt God smiling on us all!
At the Kenosha Public Museum

Swimming in Lake Michigan!

--I also committed to a week as a camp mom at a theater camp for 11th-12th graders. B16 attended as a camper and was socially and spiritually encouraged in many ways. Last year, for this same week, he was not in a good place. Through a testimony that was shared, God opened his eyes to recognize how he was sending "leave me alone" signals to others, which contributed to his feelings of loneliness and depression. He was able to turn things around for the rest of the week last year, and it was a significant turning point for him. This year, he had such a different experience. He was able to be outgoing and social, having fun and working hard on his dances and songs, including a solo, a duet and a scene as Henry from the musical Next to Normal. He also auditioned for the talent show, which he refused to do last year, and he ended up getting awarded FIRST PLACE for his original jazz improvisation on the piano!

Photo credit: my friend Lori



--I was glad the camp was as much fun as it was--(I really had a blast, although the last time I was that sleep-deprived was when I had a newborn, and I've never taken more naps in random public places)--because I had to miss tech week with my Shakespeare friends during the week of camp. Camp was the reason I couldn't audition for the show as I'd hoped to...and the reason I ended up as assistant director of Macbeth instead! Then I got the chance to understudy and perform twice in a very cool role:  Banquo, who in our version is a woman-warrior, Macbeth's best soldier friend. Macbeth is threatened by Banquo because of the prophecy that her children will be kings, instead of Macbeth's, so he has her waylaid and murdered. Not only did I have to learn her lines and blocking, I had to learn two stage battles, fighting with a sword in one hand and a shield in the other! One is the opening battle between two armies, and the other is Banquo fighting off the hired murderers--ending with Banquo getting her throat slit. (But not before she gets out all her final lines, "O treachery! Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly! Thou mayst revenge! O slave!" That was fun to yell--with a rubber dagger poised above my throat.)

--I was only going to play the role for our two daytime outdoor shows, with no costumes or makeup. But then our regular Banquo got sick, and I ended up going on 3 times in one weekend at the theater--with full makeup (including splashes of stage blood) and in costume, which included a tiny black leather vest I found in the kids' dress-up bin. With a rust-colored tank top underneath, black skinny jeans, combat boots, and my hair in a Katniss braid, how could I not get into character?? And did I mention that Banquo appears two more times after her death, as a ghost that only Macbeth can see? What a great role! And the rich language has just been washing over me all summer...even other people's lines...such a delight!


--Somewhere in the earlier part of the summer I managed to also finally paint my kitchen/dining area. I had to wait to have someone else make repairs to the ceiling, but once that was done, I had no excuse not to settle on a color and begin. I taught myself how to cut in and frame, which was a skill worth learning, and I'm so pleased with the result! Next I really want to strip wallpaper and paint the foyer and staircase. We've been picking away at it, so it can't wait too long.


--The week before camp, we had 5 golden days with my Professor Brother and his family, who drove from southern Kansas to see us in our new house! We had fun "doing downtown"--the trolley, Mike's Chicken and Donuts, Mike Bjorn's, Simmons Library, the beach, Wine Knot, the Kemper Center, the Anderson Arts Center, the Southport Beach House and other stops! (Some of these locations were chosen for senior pictures for my oldest niece!) My 3 nieces get along so well with my younger three kids; it was wonderful to give them that time. The four of us adults thoroughly enjoyed our time together too. Looking forward to seeing them again in August, along with my parents, my Pilot Brother, and his family!

Photo credit:  Professor Brother

Chicklet12 with her doppelganger, Niece13!

Such a strong family resemblance!

And check out these two! They both got the same deep-set eyes that my dad and grandma passed on to me.
--How could I forget? We also attended the Improvapalooza, which was an all-day improv competition between 9 teams of improv'ers from IL and WI. This was B16's third year doing improv, and last year his team finished in the lower third. So what a shock it was when they made it into the final round and WON the whole competition! They had a new coach this year, a dad with a passion for improv and for these kids, and he did an incredible job coaching them not just to be funny, but to work as a team, and to establish the foundation (called CROW--character, relationship, objective, where). Their team was called "Agents of CROW."
The Agents of CROW accept their trophy, the coveted lamp! Their coach is one whose face is mostly hidden, to the right of B16
--We are super-thrilled that this same dad and his family have joined Light of Christ and he immediately felt called to offer to lead our youth group! Unbeknownst to him, several of us had been praying for a youth group leader...and praying specifically that this dad might be interested...but we weren't going to press him too soon. It was such a confirmation when he immediately expressed interest. He's already stimulated new growth and excitement in our teens!

And...I'll quit. That was two months' worth of news! I sure hope another two months doesn't fly by the way those did.



Saturday, June 06, 2015

School Year's End

Six days till summer vacation begins!

Every morning, B10 informs me how many days till summer vacation. He includes the weekends, so his count is different from B16's, who counts only the remaining school days. 

Chicklet isn't as excited, because for math, she'll be plugging away for quite a few more weeks. It was her choice not to push harder; but she wisely decided to focus on a manageable daily amount rather than overwhelm herself with too much information at once. (For my homeschooling friends, we're using a self-paced online program called ALEKS which has been excellent.) I'm happy that she'll be keeping her math-brain active this summer. (But I do wish she could find her grammar and map-reading workbooks that we still need to finish!)

But it's been a good school year.

You may recall that B10 is finishing up fourth grade in public school. Previously, he was homeschooled, but when we moved, we decided to try him at the elementary school in our new neighborhood, since we had heard it praised so highly. I wasn't sure I had the energy to keep him busy enough at home; he has so much energy, I had a feeling he might be more engaged in a school setting. (Incidentally, it hit me just a few weeks ago that, although all of our kids are outgoing, B10 is our only other true extrovert besides Blondechick.)

And he's had a great year. He's getting good grades; he's well-liked by his teacher and his classmates; he's motivated to learn, to behave and to treat others well. There really hasn't been a single negative thing about his experience. We are so thankful! So he'll return in the fall for fifth grade, which will be his last year there. He sometimes speaks longingly of being homeschooled, but the main draw is being able to sleep in, I'm pretty certain. He does have a little stack of workbooks that he likes to do on non-attendance days, so he can feel homeschooled again. One time he told me he wished he could go to school every other day, and be homeschooled on the other days.

Chicklet12 and I have had a sweet sixth-grade year together. One of my goals was to get her reading longer books for longer periods of time, and we definitely achieved that. Yay!! I also wanted to get her "caught up" to where she should be in math, and when she's finished with ALEKS, she will be there. Another goal was to invest time in our relationship--with teenagerhood looming in September! So we went on the cruise together. We also went out to breakfast more than a few times; we've shopped together, cooked together, prayed together, and learned together. But it wasn't all one-on-one time; we also had our classical co-op once a week, plus theater classes and rehearsals, and homeschooled friends, church friends and theater friends to fit into her social calendar!

It's been bittersweet, since we knew that it was probably going to be her last year being homeschooled. And that's the plan for 7th grade--to go to the public middle school. By all accounts, it's not a great school, but it could be worse. So this year she went there for a few months for one period, for choir, which was long enough for her to make a few friends and imagine herself going there. I wish there was a better option, but I also trust that God is in it and He'll provide for her. I can always pull her out and homeschool her if I have to! 

But God is doing something in my heart; it feels like He is gently closing the door on homeschooling, at least for a season, because He wants to direct my attention to other things. It seems crazy to send our lovely daughter to a rough school full of junior high boys--of all things!--and it seems many of the girls are just as bad. But we know other lovely girls who've done fine there, and Chicklet has an inner strength and self-possession that will serve her well and probably be strengthened in that setting.  

Meanwhile, God is opening doors in my relationships with women who want prayer, who want to be discipled, and with people who want to know more about God. Many are neighbors or people we've only met since we moved, and we've never experienced this kind of openness and opportunity before. It continues to confirm to us that our move last summer was something God was orchestrating!

Finally, B16 is finishing his sophomore year at the local high school--also a place I wasn't eager to send our kids, but in B16 it has served to strengthen him in many ways. Ironically, he gets positive reinforcement from his peers for things like being polite, dressing in a classy way (like wearing Dad's wing-tips to school with jeans), appearing to have his act together, and having good relationships with his siblings. (All examples straight from the lips of his friends!) He's had amazing opportunities with Chorale, Madrigals, Jazz Choir, theater and Solo and Ensemble. He's finding more satisfaction with a job well-done academically too. He's also been selected to be on "Link Crew" next year, which pairs mature upperclassmen with groups of freshman students, an honor and a neat responsibility. Despite all the positives, he struggles with a certain level of depression, but he's getting better at making proactive choices that help lift him up (like not procrastinating on the big project), and I am as proud of that as I am of his other accomplishments.

And that's a wrap--for this blog post, at least. B16 and B10 still have four more days of school to get through before we can say the same about this school year. Or six. Depending how you count!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

May Madness

May?

May?

What, gone already?

May was super-busy but brim-full of wonderful events and activities.

For three days, Father R and I attended a healing conference where we taught together on Listening Prayer and Forgiveness. We also ministered in prayer to many individuals, and these prayer times were powerful! God really showed up to do the work. It was a joy and privilege to partner with Him. We were so thankful that nearly a dozen from our church were able to attend.

We also spent a lot of time in prayer as a church in May. Every night, for the week between Ascension Sunday and Pentecost Sunday, we met to intercede for our church and its call to minister in this community. We were joined one night by a Hispanic prayer warrior from another church, another night by the pastor of a black church that we are forming a relationship with, and another night 4 Guatemalans who were passing through town prayed with us. Just as the disciples waited in the Upper Room for the Holy Spirit to come, we lingered in our living room each night listening for the Lord's direction and praying for his will to be done in Kenosha and our surrounding communities. These were powerful times! We had a blessed service on Pentecost, and one family who has been attending regularly decided that day to become members. We are so thankful to God for what He is doing at Light of Christ!

B20's graduation from the Living Light School of Worship marked the end of a rich season for him. It's been a year of intensive Bible study and discipleship, as well as music theory, ear training, songwriting and other classes. It ended up being one of the most challenging, but rewarding, years of his life! What's next? For the summer, he'll be working at Starbucks (he started there a few months ago) and at another retail store. He will probably start taking college classes in the fall, but he is praying for God's direction and clear guidance as he considers his future.

In theater, after Jungle Book closed, the kids had their final Showcase for their classes. B10 sang with his voice class, Chicklet12 danced with her Project Dance Jr class, and B16 performed with his improv team. The improv team will continue to practice and perform throughout June, in preparation for the Improvapalooza, a big competition among all 11 Spotlight improv teams, which B16 is really looking forward to!

We also had Showcase for the Shakespeare class that I taught for Spotlight in Lake County. I was so proud of my students! They performed a scene from Much Ado About Nothing, with 16 kids stepping in and out to play the various roles. I am already revising and strengthening my lesson plans for the next time I teach this class, which will be in Milwaukee in the fall.

In other theater news, I was invited to be assistant director for a summer Shakespeare program at the Rhode Theater here in Kenosha. The lead director condensed two plays into abridged, one-act versions, and I will be working on the one-act of Macbeth. We held two nights of auditions this week and just published the cast list this morning. We have an excellent cast, and I'm excited to work with an experienced Shakespearean director and get to know a new group of adult and teenage actors! 

May was also filled with B10's soccer practices and games, and now baseball season has begun as well. Chicklet's homeschool PE class at Carthage College just ended, and our classical co-op ended at the end of April. B16's Chorale held their spring concert; he had one solo and he performed with the Madrigal Singers as well. He got 1's (top marks) on four out of five of his State Solo and Ensemble entries, including 1's on both his Classical and Musical Theater solos. Another big accomplishment for B16, back in April, was getting his driver's license!

Farewell, May! Maybe next time you can stay a little longer!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A New Sport

Baseball season has begun. And it's a new sport to us!

B10 is really the only natural athlete in our family. All our kids have played soccer at some point and were pretty competitive, but B10 seems to be good at whatever he tries. And last summer he tried baseball, informally, at a picnic with a group of dads, who all urged me to get him into baseball.

So this year, we signed up. He couldn't make the tryouts for Little League because he was busy being a Monkey in Jungle Book, but the Boys and Girls Club has a league, and it's less competitive. Which is a good thing, since he has so little knowledge of the game.

A couple practices were rained out and we had a conflict for another one, so he only made one practice before the first game of the season. Our normally supremely confident son admitted he didn't know what he was doing yet and didn't feel ready for a game, but the coach assured me that he had a broad range of abilities on the team and B10 would be fine.

His inept parents could not find the field where the first game was played, so he arrived last--and they had run out of hats and jerseys. Mom didn't find out that pants weren't included with the uniform until a few hours before the game, but B10 assured her that sweatpants would be fine. So here he is at his first game--in sweatpants and somebody's jersey from last year (over the green t-shirt he arrived in).



I have to laugh. He's just so obviously not our firstborn.

Since we were late to the game, he only got up to bat one time. First he swung at one that hit the dirt. Then he watched another one do the same. And on the third pitch, he hit a line drive to the first baseman and was thrown out--but got an RBI when his teammate on third crossed the plate!




He didn't see much action out in right field, but he looked alert the whole time and snapped up a couple grounders that got through the infield.

I'm guessing baseball is not going to be his favorite sport, because there is so much sitting and standing around--but he'll be glad to know how to play it.


Now I need to go searching for those white baseball pants that somebody handed down to us! I just know they're in a Rubbermaid bin somewhere....

Friday, May 22, 2015

All About Jungle Book

So the show we weren't even planning on doing--ended up being our favorite this year!

In fact, so few people were signed up to audition for Jungle Book that there was a lot of talk about it being canceled. A lot of kids simply weren't excited about the show. It was not the Disney version but an unimpressive homegrown effort which some of us had seen performed a few years ago. Even though we were told that the script and songs had been strengthened, it was hard to imagine that it could be improved THAT much. So a lot of regulars were simply planning a break. 

Then they announced the directing team--a group of really strong, positive, talented, encouraging and well-liked individuals--and that got everybody re-thinking. And then all these new families signed up, and what a shame it would be if the show they were signing up for was CANCELED! The re-thinking continued...and on audition day, we had enough kids signed up--although it would be a very small, very young cast.

So we weren't surprised to see Bantam16's name at the top of the cast list--he would be playing Older Mowgli, in the second act. Then Younger Mowgli's name was listed...and then Bagheera, the black panther had next-nearest-the-top billing. To our shock and delight, Chicklet12's name was listed there! What?! Further down, we found Bantam10's name with the other Monkeys--an energetic group for sure. No surprise there!

But Bagheera? Chicket? A 12-year-old? Could she pull it off? Could she convey the authority, the gravitas, the parental concern for Mowgli, the prophetic vision for his life? Especially with the obstacle of Baloo the Bear, played by an older teenage boy, always trying to get Bagheera to lighten up? 

And could she memorize all those lines?? This role was intense!

[Warning: Super-proud mommy moments ahead] 

But she did it! She totally pulled it off. She seemed years older on stage. She bossed Baloo around and earnestly exhorted the Younger Mowgli. She and the Older Mowgli had a showdown of wills in Act Two, and she and her brother argued vehemently, passionately and most convincingly. By the final performance, you could hear a new maturity in her voice. You could observe great confidence in her movements, which had an elegance and a nobility that suited a black panther. She gave a performance which was excellent in itself, but especially so because most people would never have guessed she was only 12! She was amazing.

Click to zoom in for a good look at her metallic false lashes! Photo credit:  Dave Fricke
B16 was equally as solid. Not only was he totally a good sport about wearing nothing but a red velvet diaper and a spray tan onstage, but he worked hard to identify with his character, and his analysis was even quoted in the newspaper:  "A fun thing about playing him is that he is trying to fit in somewhere: he doesn't know if he belongs in the jungle or the village. It relates to teenagers' lives as they try to fit into cliques. I get into [the singing] and I feel the emotions." And he made the audience feel the emotions too. His duet with Anjali, the village girl, was possibly the most beautiful moment of the show. Our Anjali completely lost her voice for one of our performances, so the directors asked B16 to change the pronouns and sing her verse as well as his own, and they recognized him with a Best Actor award at our strike party for his directability--the way he was able to take all their notes and implement them, even when all 4 of them threw something like that at him an hour before show time!

Photo by Papa Rooster
B10 also did us proud! I knew something was up when he came home after a couple rehearsals and announced that this was probably going to be his new favorite show. He had never changed his favorite show before--it has always been the first one he did (Aladdin)--and the reason he gave was that he LOVED his part! Then I heard from his brother and sister that he was really, really good at being a Monkey. Huh, I thought.

At the first dress rehearsal, I understood. B10, you may know, has SO. MUCH. ENERGY. And this role was perfect for him. He was over-the-top in every move he made. If the Monkeys had a step in their dance, B10 turned it in to a leap. If they spun around, he jumped high in the air as he spun. (I asked the choreographer if she cared if he was the spastic monkey of the group and she said she loved it!) These Monkey were screamers (kind of a high hooting scream that really did sound monkey-like), and he loved screaming most often and most loudly. He was constantly in movement onstage, pushing and getting pushed around, often rolling underfoot of others onstage, surprisingly never getting hurt or tripping someone. He did something new every time, always in character. He was just so much fun to watch! (And he told everyone that he had enjoyed it because "I just got to be myself!")

Photo by Papa Rooster
But there was something about this show. It just seemed God's hand was on it! Here's what I wrote on our theater group's Facebook page, on the morning of our final performance:

Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. (Ephesians 3:20)

Is anybody else just basking in the GENEROSITY of God today? I think a lot of us had low expectations for this show--we barely had enough people to pull it off! Remember it almost got canceled?? Then God sent us all these new families, and a great directing team, and who knew what the final product would look like, but hey, at least our kids were having fun, right?

I got to watch the show last night, and I was blown away by how good it was! I saw so many courageous choices by very young, very new actors, and by those who've never had lines or a lead before. I saw expressive and committed dancing and singing. I saw a really good story unfold, beautifully and believably. I give our directing team so much credit, but ultimately they can't take it beyond what each member of the cast is willing to put out there, and that's what took the show a step beyond what I could have imagined! Each cast member was focused and committed to every word, every step, every gesture. There was an intensity to the performance that I didn't expect with such a young and relatively inexperienced cast!*

[*Found out later that over half our cast members had never been in a Spotlight show before or had only been in one; 25% of our cast were 8- and 9-year-olds. Over half of the leads had never had a leading role before.)

I have to believe that it was God's mighty power at work within each of our kids that enabled them to push beyond their comfort zone with such courage. I believe God's power was at work to pull in all the new parents and make them part of things so readily! Thinking back to the prayers we prayed on Friday nights during rehearsals, God has answered so many of them--so generously. Why do we so often think of God as withholding? He loves to answer our prayers above and beyond what we can think to ask! Thank you, Lord!

I do wonder about the effect of our Friday night prayer times, which I felt strongly led by God to start this session. If our family isn't back in Kenosha in the fall (since I might end up on a directing team in another area), I hope and believe it will continue! There was just something special about this show, something beyond human relationships. God was at work, and I'm so excited to see what He will continue to do in Spotlight Kenosha!


Mowgli and Anjali play jumprope with the monkeys! (Photo credit:  Papa )

Indignant and upset with his sister Bagheera (Photo credit:  Papa R)
Solo time
(Photo credit:  Papa R)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Cruisin' with Chicklet12!

Chicklet and I had such a special time together on our cruise!!

Here we are at O'Hare Airport at 6 a.m. on Monday morning. It was her first flight!


Just a few hours later....


....we were in Miami, aboard the Norwegian Sky! Perfect for a girl who's 25% Norwegian.


Each morning, we woke up to find ourselves at a new port. The first morning it was Freeport on Grand Bahamas Island, and I believe this photo was taken in Nassau, on our second morning. 

In Freeport, we elected not to go to the beach, since it wasn't walking distance. Instead, we walked around the little shopping area near the dock. We spent $5 each; Chicklet bought a carved wooden dolphin, and I bought a straw fan. The seller stitched our names on the fan while we chatted with her and the other lady at the booth--the embroidery was included in the price! We also stopped to watch a woodcarver with an "I LOVE JESUS" t-shirt on, and we ended up talking to him for quite awhile too. He wasn't Anglican, but he reminded me of Anita, the cab driver that Papa R and I met on our cruise on Grand Turk Island--proud of his church, and his faith was obviously a big part of his life.


On the second day, at Nassau, we walked to a free beach and Chicklet made a friend there--a woman who was snorkeling in the shallow area. She gave Chicklet a snorkel that her husband wasn't using. Besides lots of little fish to see, we found hermit crabs to play with on that beach too! 

On the third day, we went to a private island owned by the cruise line, called Grand Stirrup Cay. The snorkeling was even better there, so I rented a life-vest for Chicklet so she could go out farther safely. I would have loved to go with her, but there weren't any lockers for our stuff, including our ID's and my phone/camera. Plus snorkeling doesn't work for me because I can't get a good seal around my glasses, and if I remove my glasses, I can't see!

But there were lifeguards, and she had the life-vest, so I let her go, out of my sight, while I read Josephine Tey mysteries and soaked up the warmth of the sun. I felt a peace from the Lord that she would be fine--and she had a lovely time.

"Mom, I saw a Dory fish! Did you know all of the Finding Nemo fish are real? I think I've seen all of them now, except for the sea turtle."

I kept urging her to join me on a lounge chair for a few minutes, but she said, "I can do that this summer. I won't be able to do this back in Wisconsin!" She snorkled for four hours that day, and two hours the day before, and never once said, "I'm bored," or "I wish I had a friend here." She was so content on the whole trip!

In the late afternoons, back on the ship, we swam in the ships's pool, sat in the hot tub, helped ourselves to soft-serve ice cream cones, and read books on our lounge chairs, enjoying the breeze. We ate our breakfasts and our first couple meals alone, but at dinner each night we went to the nice dining room and shared a table with others. At first Chicklet was hesitant about it, but she quickly discovered how interesting it was to meet people from all over the world. We met Canadians, a truck driver from NYC who had grown up in Guyana, a fun couple from Cincinnati, a talkative and lonely widower from Sevier, TN, and two twenty-something girls who had been homeschooled through high school. One had received training as a midwife in India, through Youth With a Mission, and was getting certified in the US. The other had graduated from high school with her associate's degree and had been on a number of missions trips since graduation, including a couple years in Australia. She was planning to return to college once she narrowed down what she really wanted to do--she had so many options!

We also went to the shows each night and really enjoyed the dancers, especially, since Chicklet12 has been taking a lot of dance. We discovered that there was an all-night buffet open at the outdoor eating area, so we had to visit there every night after the show, for an extra treat or two. We read in bed until about midnight each night. I stayed up a little later than C, and woke up a little earlier, without an alarm, which was lovely. In the darkness of our windowless inside cabin, we both slept super-well, but not too late!

At the public beach at Nassau
I was so grateful to God for this trip, especially that it was relaxing and uneventful. I was quite nervous about it ahead of time, with fears that we would miss our flight, or it would be cancelled, and we'd miss the boat, or Chicklet's birth certificate wouldn't be adequate ID, or we'd lose our baggage, or have our ID's stolen, or SOMETHING would happen. Then at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday night, just 5 hours before we were going to leave for the airport, B10 threw up. Chicklet had been playing with him for hours that evening before bedtime, and so a new worry was added: We'd spend the whole cruise in our stateroom, puking.

But thanks be to God, NOTHING HAPPENED!

My husband and 3 of my boys were sick for days...but Chicklet and I escaped somehow. (We both drank Airborne as soon as B10 threw up. Maybe that helped? And Papa R wouldn't let me into the bedroom, cleaning up the mess himself.)

The relief of an uneventful time was almost as carthatic as the relaxing time away!

It was just really fun and relaxing, and such a sweet time with Chicklet12. I am so, so thankful!!


Saturday, April 04, 2015

Holy Week, Spring Break--and a Vacation!

I keep wistfully waiting for the time when I can return to blogging more regularly!

It seems there is always some urgent big time-consuming thing. Always a good thing! For example, there was the clergy and spouse retreat, which took three days right when I needed to start thinking about Easter Vigil readings. And there was the opportunity to teach a Shakespeare class for teen theater students, which I am enjoying immensely, but required a good amount of start-up energy the week before that.

So the big urgent thing for the last couple weeks has been scrambling to pull together readers for Easter Vigil, their schedules, creative ideas for dramatic accompaniment and the folks to make that happen: a dancer, a djembe player, bell-ringers, percussion players (and instruments), musicians, music, and children to act out one of the readings. Did I mention scheduling??

This week--rehearsals for those readings! And Holy Week! We have services for Maundy Thursday, Stations of the Cross on Friday afternoon, Good Friday, Easter Vigil on Saturday and Easter Sunday. There are music rehearsals going on as well as my reading rehearsals, so our house--so close to the church now!--will be Holy Week Central. People will be providing meals and snacks for musicians and tech people at my house before each service and during the day on Friday and Saturday. One of my friends is going to hang out at my house to help set up, serve and clean up. It's going to be hectic but exciting!

(Note to self--figure out today or tomorrow what the younger kids and I are wearing for each service and do laundry or shop as needed--and buy ham! Our friends who have hosted us for Easter dinner for the last several years are going to join us this year, since the wife is recovering from surgery. My sister-in-law and I will cook together on Saturday morning, and our friends will bring sides and a dessert.)

After Holy Week, we have spring break, so it will be a recovery week...but also a week of preparation for Chicklet and me--because on the following Monday, when the boys go back to school, we are going on a cruise!

Ever since Papa R and I went on one for our 25th anniversary, I've been wanting to do another one. He hasn't been as eager, not because he didn't enjoy it, but because he's traveled so much in his working life that the thought of getting on another airplane sends him trembling into a fetal position. So he suggested I take Chicklet12. She's the perfect age and temperament--young enough to still be happy hanging out with Mom, and old enough to be companionable. Plus she's homeschooled, so it's easy for her to get away.

We are saying it's in honor of my 50th and her 13th birthdays, since it's about halfway between the two events. :)

We got a super deal through Vacations to Go (4 nights for $250 each), and airfare to Miami was only $150 each, round-trip! It was too good to pass up. Plus I am way overdue to keep a promise extracted from me by friends who love and care about me, that I would take a vacation after our extremely stressful summer last year.

So there ya go. We are going to the Bahamas in about 10 days.

And I got so busy with rehearsals and services that several days have passed since I wrote this! Easter Vigil is tonight!!!

A blessed Easter everyone!!